COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson calls the SEC a “line of scrimmage league.”
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Ulric Jones, who’s played on both sides of the ball for the Gamecocks, couldn’t agree more.
“You’re only as good as your defensive front,” Jones said, adding that the 2016 group of defensive linemen are intent on being a more reliable unit than they were a season ago.
“We take it all. We put it on us. We go out with the mission to get better every day.”
During his preseason camp debut in front of reporters, the former tight end/offensive tackle said he’s among the players working with the first-team defensive line, which includes Marquavius Lewis, Dante Sawyer and Darius English, who’s playing the “buck” position.
“Nothing is set in stone, but we’re all working hard to be where we want to be on the depth chart,” Jones said.
After arriving from Butler Community College (El Dorado, KS) of as a defensive lineman, Jones was moved to the offensive side of the ball in the middle of last season, while he was redshirting. Now, back on the defensive line, Jones is in position to win a starting job.
Naturally, he’s pleased with the move.
“I’m such a versatile player, it really isn’t too much big of a deal,” Jones said, when asked about his preferred position. “If they tell me to go play tight end, I’ll play tight end. If it’s tackle, tackle.
“But it feels good to be back on the defensive side of the ball.”
Defensive line coach Lance Thompson told reporters on Wednesday that Jones was moved back to defense because they needed to increase the veteran presence along the interior of the line.
“We had a huge void at defensive tackle for guys that have played any substantial, meaningful playing time,” Thompson said. “That’s another option for us. (Jones has) done a good job and we are really encouraged by him.”
To be more of a player along the interior of the Gamecocks defensive line, Thompson said Jones could play with a “better pad level.”
“He’s got to learn to use his hands and feet at the same time,” Thompson said, “But really more than anything, it’s need.”
With Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon Jr. and Phillip Dukes gone from the defensive tackle position, Will Muschamp, Travaris Robinson and South Carolina’s defensive brain trust are in search of bodies to help replace the 96 tackles and 11 tackles for loss the trio accounted for in 2015.
Dante Sawyer, Kelsey Griffin, Taylor Stallworth and Abu Lamin, who are counted among the returning defensive linemen, combined for 43 tackles and seven tackles for loss a season ago.
More than a week into preseason camp, Jones has positioned himself to be a part of that conversation.
“He wants to please you, but like I said, he’s got to work on pad level,” Thompson said.